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Why immigration reform is important

April 1, 2013

by Laura Savage

Just in time for Easter Sunday, television news stations are reporting that the “Gang of Eight” has reached a deal on immigration reform. This Gang of Eight, of course, is comprised of Republican and Democratic senators. The idea is to be a bipartisan committee that works together to solve America’s immigration issues.

Immigration rally 'Citizenship because no preson is 2nd class' 031513 by John Moore, GettyAccording to an ABC News article, the so-called deal for a “W-Visa” is geared toward low-skilled labor and aims to grant 20,000 visas by August 2015. Eventually that number would increase to as many as 200,000 per year, but won’t go below the initial 20,000. Only 15,000 construction visas would be available each year.

What hasn’t been figured out is how all this will work, what applying for citizenship will require and how to deter immigrants entering the country illegally.

“I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in an issued statement.

The problem with this type of reform is that it assumes that every new immigrant is low-skilled. There are visas for science and technology workers, the H1B visa. What about immigrants who don’t fit into either of these categories? What do they do?

The children of immigrants already in the country will be covered by the DREAM Act if and when it’s passed. Now Congress, especially the Republicans, is trying to put immigration reform on the fast track. And it’s conveniently following a devastating election loss where 71 percent of Latino voters voted for President Obama and Democrats.

What hasn’t been figured out is how all this will work, what applying for citizenship will require and how to deter immigrants entering the country illegally.

Anyone who takes a good listen or read of the reports should see a flaw. What about the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are already in this country, waiting for visas that they’ve already applied for, paid for and are waiting to be approved? What about them? When do they get visas?

The backlog of visa applications is at the year 1996. 1996! The federal government is working on applications from 17 years ago.

It is simply inefficient! America is the most powerful country in the world and we can’t even get applications processed. Either there is a need for more workers to process the visas or the government has no intention of granting them. The latter makes more sense, not because it is justified but because that is the only logical reason for why the process is taking so long.

What about the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants already in this country, waiting for visas that they’ve already applied for, paid for and are waiting to be approved? What about them? When do they get visas?

Immigrants contribute to our society by working – either in jobs that average Americans traditionally haven’t desired or by opening businesses. They pay taxes and therefore are making our economy stronger. They are being unfairly punished by the long wait. The slow process is bad for the economy because many are too scared to work for fear of being deported.

How is only allowing low-skilled immigrant labor in the country fair? I can’t help but feel that this is specifically geared to limiting Latinos from entering the country, hence the uproar about border security.

Black migrants rally for comprehensive immigration reform west lawn Capitol 032013 by Don Baxter, Media Images Internati
Protestors gathered on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol on March 20 to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes Black migrants. Bertha Lewis, president of The Black Institute, said: “Today, we rally to encourage our Black immigrants to come out of the shadows and fight for their place at the table. Today, we lobby Congress to take action to ensure that their voices are heard.” – Photo: Don Baxter, Media Images International
If I were an immigrant waiting for legal status and if I were not a low-skilled worker, I would wonder how can I feel safe about staying in this country. Furthermore, how long would I have to stay a low-skilled worker before I could move up the ladder and grasp the American dream?

You may hear American citizens saying that immigrants waiting for legal status are taking citizens’ jobs. You may hear that immigrants take up social services, as in food stamps and welfare benefits. You may even believe that immigrants don’t pay taxes. You may believe that immigrants want a free ride and don’t deserve to be in America.

That is a scare tactic meant to “divide and conquer”!

If you believe these lies, let me remind us all that we, Blacks, were once treated inhumanely like immigrants are now. Yes, we still are victims of prejudice and racism. Which is good enough reason for us to be in solidarity with the immigrant population, whether Latino, Asian, African, European, whomever.

We know what it is like to not be wanted in this country. We know what it is like to only be valued as cheap or free labor. We know what it’s like to be used and then discarded by mainstream America.

Since we know how these injustices feel, we are undoubtedly responsible for standing in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters. It is not a coincidence that Republicans feel inclined and pressured to pass immigration after losing the presidency in November. They know that this country is quickly becoming a Latino majority and they don’t want to lose their power.

Blacks in America must support fair, comprehensive immigration because it is just, because it is our time to stand for equality, just as we had help during the Civil Rights era – and continue to need help – just as they used scare tactics around jobs and social services and safety when we gained freedom and when we demanded equality.

We know what it is like to not be wanted in this country. We know what it is like to only be valued as cheap or free labor. We know what it’s like to be used and then discarded by mainstream America.

We need a better immigration package on the table from Congress. Just as Blacks are capable of more than low-skilled labor, immigrant Brown peoples of every background are too. And immigration policy should reflect that.

Laura Savage is a graduating senior in journalism at San Francisco State University and is interning with the SF Bay View this semester. She can be reached at lsavage26@gmail.com.

 

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